Miami Dolphins 2010 Position Grades: Did The Tight Ends Pull Their Weight?
When Joey Haynos suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in training camp and veteran David Martin's second tour of duty failed to last beyond the preseason, the Miami Dolphins opted to go with disappointing 2009 fifth-rounder John Nalbone as their lone backup tight end.
Nalbone failed to last a month into the regular season, and the Dolphins proceeded to utilize a mixture of two seventh-round rookies and an undrafted free agent as Anthony Fasano's No. 2 man, with no success.
While Fasano posted career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2010, he was unable to lift the entire position up to a productive level with no quality counterpart.
Just two years after the Dolphins' backup tight ends combined for 33 receptions, 472 yards, and four touchdowns, Nalbone, Jeron Mastrud, Mickey Shuler totaled just two catches for 28 yards. Both were by Shuler.
Prepare to shake your heads in disappointment, because I'm about to hand out individual grades for the Dolphins' tight ends in 2010.
Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
Anthony Fasano: B
In a season that saw the Dolphins run an extremely conservative offense and refusing to let quarterback Chad Henne take any chances, Anthony Fasano reaped the benefits as a reliable, short-yardage target.
Fasano set career highs in receptions (39), receiving yards (528) and yards per catch (13.5) while reaching the end zone four times and never fumbling the ball.
He didn't get much help from the offensive line, the other tight ends, or fullback Lousaka Polite, but Fasano also continued to do a pretty solid job as a blocker.
He's not a dynamic play-making tight end like the league's elite, but Fasano is solid in all areas and is a serviceable starter or top-notch backup.
Jeron Mastrud: F
Undrafted out of Kansas State in 2010, Mastrud was added to the Dolphins' initial practice squad and was promoted on Sept. 21 when the team waived tight end John Nalbone.
Mastrud went on to appear in eight games between Weeks 3-17, including two starts against the Jets and Patriots in December. He played sparingly on offense, was never targeted with a pass, and struggled as a run blocker.
Mickey Shuler: F
The son of former Pro Bowl tight end Mickey Shuler, Sr., Shuler, Jr. was a seventh-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings out of Penn State. He was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins on Sept. 23.
Arriving shortly after Mastrud, Shuler worked his way into game action on a number of occasions, appearing in six games including two starts.
Like Mastrud, Shuler was not much of a blocker as a rookie. Though he holds the distinction of being the only Dolphins' tight end not named Fasano to catch a pass in 2010 (he caught two for 44 yards), he also cut off a route against the Detroit Lions that led to an interception returned for a touchdown.
Dedrick Epps: F
Drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the seventh round out of Miami, Epps joined the Dolphins' practice squad on Sept. 14 and eventually earned a promotion to the active roster on Dec. 11.
Epps appeared in three of the Dolphins' final four games, but did not catch a pass and failed to make an impact as a blocker.
Closing Comments and 2011 Outlook
In my view, the lack of a quality No. 2 tight end like they had in years past was one of the biggest reasons for the Dolphins' offensive struggles in 2010. Not only did they not have another viable receiving threat aside from Fasano, but they also lacked a quality blocker that could help in two-tight end sets.
While the Dolphins can be excused somewhat due to Haynos' injury, I'm a bit perplexed as to why they felt they could go into the season with Nalbone as the lone backup after a disappointing rookie season and unimpressive 2010 camp.
Why also did they continue to rely on inexperienced rookies when it clearly was not getting the job done? Was the team so cheap and/or committed to their "youth movement" they couldn't pick up a capable veteran tight end to lend a hand as a blocker?
The Dolphins signed Fasano to a multi-year extension during the season, so he will absolutely return as the starter for the foreseeable future. They should also be able to retain Haynos, who is a restricted free agent, if they so choose.
If they want to make a huge splash for an upgrade over Fasano in free agency, they could look to someone like the Jaguars' Marcedes Lewis or the Raiders' Zach Miller.
More likely, they would look for a better backup or someone to compete, possibly in the draft's middle rounds. A do-it-all tight end like Tennessee's Luke Stocker would be nice, as would a potential receiving threat like FAU's Rob Housler or Nevada's Virgil Green.